Darien Community Association receives grant for bird sanctuary

The Darien Foundation has awarded $18,500 to the Darien Community Association (DCA) to fund improvements in their four-acre bird sanctuary. This is the second grant the Darien Foundation has given to the DCA and it will be used to attract more birds with a pondless cascading waterfall and new trees to provide more cover and food.

“The Darien Foundation provided significant funding to the DCA in 2013 for deer fencing, since protecting native plantings was essential for the success of the sanctuary,” said Darien Foundation Executive Director Sarah Woodberry. “It has become a beautiful town asset and great example of what a nonprofit organization and its dedicated volunteers can contribute to the community. We are thrilled to continue our support.”

The Darien Community Association’s bird sanctuary had its origin begin in 2012 when they decided that the four unused acres on their property would be cleaned up and turned into the sanctuary that it is today.

DCA Communications Manager Laura Racanellli said, “Initiated by Darien Land Trust President Chris Filmer, Darien Beautification Commission member Sig Buchmayr, and DCA board member Cindy Ryan, the work effort was supported by a number of volunteers, businesses, and local organizations.”

Filmer said “The support of the Darien Foundation has been critical to our success. We look forward to continuing our partnership and making the bird sanctuary even better.”    

Filmer said, “I’ve done a lot of conservation work. The purpose of the bird sanctuary is to attract birds. It was a piece of land that wasn’t used for 20 to 30 years. This place was invasive when we started. We cleaned out 63 bags worth of invasive plants. The clean up took three to four years. We are now making it through the last phase. We then built a system of trails.”

Racanelli said “the Eagle Scouts built a butterfly garden and the Darien Foundation provided a grant for the deer fence so they wouldn’t eat the plants and growing trees that are made for the birds.”

She continued, “Since it is fenced in, the deer fence keeps the deer out and the kids in. Sometimes we have tents with writing and art activities for when the preschoolers come. We also have them come inside to do their regular learning. K-5 have visited along with a senior group that came in through At Home in Darien.”  

The DCA has hosted over 200 school-aged children on sanctuary tours, in addition to numerous adult groups. “The sanctuary is a retreat and learning space for the community — free to enter and enjoy for all, what a gift,” said Mallory Arents, Associate Director of Programs and Services at the Darien Library.

Racanelli then said, “I’ve sat around here and have stopped and slowly birds start coming around you and it’s just very peaceful.”

Filmer then spoke about some of the new and existing attributes the sanctuary contains. “A new water fountain was installed. 350 gallons of water flow through it and is pumped underground to keep it circulating. They have a baby nursery for greens. For oak trees, holly, tulip, and pine among others. And there is a rock spiral. The kids mustn’t touch the rocks and they go all around until they find what is underneath the rock in the middle.”

Buchmayr said, “I am going to plant some fruit trees here, some spruce and holy, and some cherry and pear trees.” And then mentioned that “97% of Darien is not open space. Some houses are being taken down for open spaces.” And with this information, they hope residents know there are public open spaces to enjoy.

DCA Executive Director Amy Bell added on the purpose of the sanctuary, saying, “This is a new aspire of their philanthropy that we took four acres and made it a town gem.  And thanks to the focus on conservation and how to provide open space.”

Racanelli ended the tour saying, “The point really is to come in, no pets allowed, and just have anyone come out and have lunch or walk around during their break.”